Pouille spurs France to Davis Cup glory

Last Updated 27 November 2017, 15:56 IST

Lucas Pouille throttled Belgium's Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 in Sunday's decisive fifth rubber to clinch a 10th Davis Cup title for France in front of a passionate Lille crowd.

Belgian ace David Goffin levelled the final at two points apiece after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in Sunday's opening reverse singles, but a revitalised Pouille propelled France to a first victory since 2001.

Pouille was beaten convincingly by Goffin in Friday's first singles tie, but the world number 18 shook off that defeat to swat Darcis aside in one hour and 34 minutes.

"There's nothing better than winning as a team, with my mates, in front of the fans, my family and my friends," Pouille told French television.

"We're going to celebrate and make the most of it. I'm proud of my team."

The Frenchman broke Darcis, who had sent Belgium through to the final by winning the deciding rubber against Australia in September's semifinal, at the first attempt to lay the foundation for a memorable triumph. That proved enough to wrap up the first set, with three further breaks in the second firing Pouille and France to the brink of the title.

Darcis, the world number 76, was powerless to stop a rampant Pouille as the 23-year-old dismantled the Belgian in the third set -- winning 25 of 34 points -- to end France's run of three straight finals defeats.

Belgium's hopes of claiming a first title in the venerable competition rested with their in-form number one Goffin, who downed Tsonga 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-2 after withstanding sustained early pressure.

Goffin saved a set point while serving at 5-6, as Tsonga was left to rue his inability to capitalise on any of six break points in a marathon first set.

World number seven Goffin, the runner-up to Grigor Dimitrov at the season-ending ATP Finals in London last weekend, snatched a 75-minute opening set with a blistering backhand return in the tie-break.

Tsonga, who brought France level in Friday's second singles with a crushing win over Darcis, then surrendered his serve in the second set with a costly double fault as Goffin surged 4-2 ahead before seizing a two-set lead. Goffin stormed to a double-break lead in the third set as Tsonga's resistance crumbled, and closed out the match with minimal fuss, but Darcis was unable to reproduce previous heroics against an inspired Pouille.

France drew level with Great Britain after securing a 10th title -- a tally only surpassed by the US, the record 32-time champions, and Australia, on 28 titles.

(Published 26 November 2017, 19:02 IST)

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